April 22, 2016

Politics -- it's all cyclical


Cycles.  The Bible covered this subject over a millennium ago in Ecclesiastes. Whether you are Christian or not, this truism applies:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
The verses continue to cover other things for which there are different seasons.  The point is universal; everything, absolutely everything is cyclical.  There are  ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys in absolutely everything from global warming to the economy, to bull markets and bear markets to politics and human behavior.

The length of the cycles are not always consistent from category to category or even within a specific category.  For example economic growth periods typically last much longer than recessions (unequal cycles) but during the Great Depression there was an inconsistently long down cycle.

This idea is important to keep in mind during turbulent times such as these. As the Persian saying goes, "this too shall pass".  The reason this struck me today is because of Peggy Noonan's column today in the Wall Street Journal where she laments the decline of lucid, eloquent discourse in American politics.
Have you had your 2016 Moment? I think you probably have, or will.

The Moment is that sliver of time in which you fully realize something epochal is happening in politics, that there has never been a presidential year like 2016, and suddenly you are aware of it in a new, true and personal way. It tends to involve a poignant sense of dislocation, a knowledge that our politics have changed and won’t be going back.

We’ve had a lot to absorb—the breaking of a party, the rise of an outlandish outsider; a lurch to the left in the other party, the popular rise of a socialist. Alongside that, the enduring power of a candidate even her most ardent supporters accept as corrupt. Add the lowering of standards, the feeling of no options, the coarsening, and all the new estrangements.

...A friend I’ll call Bill, a political veteran from the 1980s and ’90s, also had his Moment with his child, a 14-year-old daughter who is a budding history buff. He had never taken her to the Reagan Library, so last month they went. As she stood watching a video of Reagan speaking, he thought of Reagan and FDR, of JFK and Martin Luther King. His daughter, he realized, would probably never see political leaders of such stature and grace, though she deserved to. Her first, indelible political memories were of lower, grubbier folk. “Leaders with Reaganesque potential no longer go into politics—and why would they, with all the posturing and plasticity that it requires?”
She provided an even more low bar example in the piece.  This too shall pass.  Noonan should know better, she's older and undoubtedly possesses far more political insight than I do. Politics in America has not always been eloquent or refined.  It's fluid.  What we witnessed during the heyday of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher or Churchill or the Founding Fathers is more likely the shorter cycle. But the pendulum can only swing towards the guttural for so long before it swings back or the pendulum actually breaks.  

America can only decline for so long before it snaps back or collapses like ancient Rome or Greece. But even such a calamity would not be the end of the ideals that made America great, just as the collapse of the U.S.S.R. did not ensure that communism ended up in the 'dustbin of history' for all time, the ideals of liberty and justice for all shall not perish if America does.  They might ebb, but they will eventually flow once again.  But prior to such a catastrophe of an American implosion, politics will surely snap back from the brink of Idiocracy and allow for an American mending.  Just as Obama won in 2008 and 2012, he was severely rebuked in 2010 and 2014 by voters.  And just as Trump and Clinton might embody the negatives Noonan concerns herself with, neither will be relevant in 8 or 9 years at most.

Legalizing marijuana, lowering educational standards, outsourcing jobs, encroaching government restricting liberty, yes we must make our voices known and fight for what we believe is correct or America might not snap back, just as Rome eventually did not recover from it's own flawed choices. But the ideals that created America will remain in hearts and minds, and will someday, somewhere once again flourish in a significant way.

While Noonan conflates Trump as the solution with Trump as the problem, she is not all wrong in her observations;
My Moment came a month ago. I’d recently told a friend my emotions felt too close to the surface—for months history had been going through me and I felt like a vibrating fork. I had not been laughing at the splintering of a great political party but mourning it. Something of me had gone into it. Party elites seemed to have no idea why it was shattering, which meant they wouldn’t be able to repair it, whatever happens with Mr. Trump.

I was offended that those curiously quick to write essays about who broke the party were usually those who’d backed the policies that broke it. Lately conservative thinkers and journalists had taken to making clear their disdain for the white working class. I had actually not known they looked down on them. I deeply resented it and it pained me. If you’re a writer lucky enough to have thoughts and be paid to express them and there are Americans on the ground struggling, suffering—some of them making mistakes, some unlucky—you don’t owe them your airy, well-put contempt, you owe them your loyalty. They too have given a portion of their love to this great project, and they are in trouble.
Quite true. But dark despair at politics or the GOP or in anything, is not only unhelpful, it's wrong: To everything there is a season.
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